Time Management: How Leaders Should Spend Their Time

time spent on activities_knowledge workersThe following is an excerpt and executive overview of the McKinsey Quarterly article, Making Time Management the Organizations Priority, published in April 2013.

Our research and experience suggest that leaders who are serious about addressing this challenge must stop thinking about time management as primarily an individual problem and start addressing it institutionally. Time management isn’t just a personal-productivity issue over which companies have no control; it has increasingly become an organizational issue whose root causes are deeply embedded in corporate structures and cultures.

 When we asked nearly 1,500 executives across the globe2 to tell us how they spent their time, we found that only 9 percent of the respondents deemed themselves “very satisfied” with their current allocation. Less than half were “somewhat satisfied,” and about one-third were “actively dissatisfied.” What’s more, only 52 percent said that the way they spent their time largely matched their organizations’ strategic priorities. Nearly half admitted that they were not concentrating sufficiently on guiding the strategic direction of the business. These last two data points suggest that time challenges are influencing the well-being of companies, not just individuals.

Recommendations

  1. Develop a ‘leadership time’ budget: allocate a percentage of time for each major project or initiative that requires leadership guidance and attention.
  2. Consider ‘time’ when making organizational changes: when making structural and hierarchical changes to an organization, consider the ‘time’ factor managers have with direct reports.
  3. Measure individuals’ time: conduct time analysis exercises to provide awareness of where executives and workers spend their time. This creates a baseline and a starting point for changing time allocations
  4. Refine the master calendar: Review all meetings and calendars and make an assessment of which meetings support organizational goals/ initiatives. Also have a coding system of identifying reporting, problem solving, or decision type meetings.

Executives at the highest-performing organizations we’ve seen typically spend at least 50 percent of their time in decision meetings and less than 10 percent in reporting or information meetings.

5. Provide high quality administrative support: Provide executive leadership quality administrative support that understands where to allocate executives time.

Of those who deemed themselves effective time managers, 85 percent reported that they received strong support in scheduling and allocating time.The time pressures on senior leaders are intensifying, and the vast majority of them are frustrated by the difficulty of responding effectively. While executives cannot easily combat the external forces at work, they can treat time as a precious and increasingly scarce resource and tackle the institutional barriers to managing it well. The starting point is to get clear on organizational priorities—and to approach the challenge of aligning them with the way executives spend their time as a systemic organizational problem, not merely a personal one.

 

Time Management: Recommended Apps

The following are some time management apps that can help workers manage, track and prioritize their time.

Prioritize: Priority Matrix centers on clock on deskproject lists. Once a project is set up then associated tasks are affiliated with the projects. The difference with this app is that you then must categorize each task into one of four quadrants based on Stephen Covey’s, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “urgent vs. important” model. The default quadrants are: critical and immediate, critical but not immediate, not critical but immediate, and not critical and not immediate. Priority Matrix provides this prioritizing structure that certain users might find useful to help them focus on the important vs. urgent task items.

Time Tracking: Harvest is a time tracking app that helps users determine how they are spending their time during the workday. It can track individual tasks, client billing or projects. If you use Harvest to track billable hours it has the ability to export a category of hours QuickBooks. It also has the ability to do reports and provide analysis of how and where users spend their time.

Task Integration to Calendar and Contacts: SmartTime integrates users daily tasks with their calendar and/or contacts on their iPhone. It also has the ability to email tasks with other SmartTime users.

Event Tracking: Last Time is an event tracking app that helps users remember the last time they did something. For example, when the last vacation was and what activities you did, or the last time you took your car in for maintenance or a tune-up. This app essentially acts as a recorder of events that you may need to recall in the future.

 Reaching Goals: Stickk is a platform designed for individuals to make a “commitment contract” with themselves to help achieve personal or professional goals such as exercising more, attaining a higher education or being a better email manager. This application was developed by a Yale University economist who developed the model through extensive field research on commitments and motivation.

 

Mobile Work Environments: Establish Clear Expectations on Staff Schedules

Along with benefits of improved productivity and reduced commute time, there are challenges in remote, mobile and telework environments. All employees should have clear expectations from their supervisor on schedules working from home and being in the office. Ideally, there should be staff meetings to review these expectations so everyone is clear. Then, have a group or shared calendar that staff can post their leave and telework days.

Below are some questions for managers to facilitate the dialogue with staff;

  1. Should telework or remote work days be fluctuating or should they be relatively set?
  2. If a staff person wishes to switch telework days because of personal reasons, will that be acceptable? And in which circumstances?
  3. Should staff stagger their schedules so that the office is always covered?
  4. If there is an important meeting or training, and some of the staff are teleworking should it be required for them to come to the office for certain functions? If so, what type of functions?
  5. If there are staff who do not want to telework and work from home, will that be acceptable?
  6. How will the staff know who is teleworking or working remotely? (e.g. shared calendars, separate telework schedule or staff meetings)

If you require assistance in facilitating these discussions or would like to provide Working Remotely Effectively Trainings for your remote work force, contact us!